Hands on: Q Acoustics 3000c series review

The king of entry-level speakers rides again?

What is a hands on review?
Q Acoustics 3000c all speakers in range on display
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

Early Verdict

We need more dedicated listening time for the full assessment, but we liked what we heard in our brief time with the 3020c standmount and 3050c floorstanders, from the clean, spacious presentation to the punchy, snappy rhythm. And the price point is appealing. We look forward to putting them through the full reviewing paces in a couple of months' time.

Pros

  • +

    Sounds clear, spacious and solid

  • +

    Tuneful, punchy bass

  • +

    3050c floorstander was more at ease with large demo room

  • +

    Nicely made and clean design

  • +

    Entry-level prices (despite price rise from previous generation)

Cons

  • -

    We need more testing time and comparisons

  • -

    Will they inherit the 5000's more demanding nature with partnering kit?

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Q Acoustics' 3000 range of speakers is one of its most popular, not just for its affordable pricing, but, historically, for offering an incredibly refined, dynamic and musical performance that far belies its budget price point, alongside an easy-to-accommodate nature no matter your room or home audio kit. Across the speakers we have tested from the previous 3000 and 3000i generations (which boast five-star and Award-winning models), we have found the speakers to be unfussy with partnering equipment and positioning, and delivering "sensational" value for money with their hugely enjoyable performance.

It has been six years since the last series was launched and the new third-generation Q Acoustics 3000c series, unveiled at High End Munich 2024, promises quite a lot in terms of new technology and performance, not to mention a price bump throughout. 

We had our first look at the new entry-level series at the High End show and listened to a brief demo of two models at the launch, too. Here are our initial impressions.

Price

Q Acoustics 3030c and Q Acoustics 3050c speakers in wood finishes on display

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Q Acoustics 3000c is the brand's new entry-level range – the former 1000 and 2000 series are long gone. It consists of three standmount speakers, one pair of floorstanding speakers and a centre channel. The full range will be available to buy in August 2024.

It's worth mentioning the impact that factors such as inflation, the rising cost of materials and supply-chain intricacies have had on hi-fi products in general in the past few years. When the original Q Acoustics 3000 range launched in 2015, the cheapest standmounter model cost £140; this rose to £199 in the second-gen 3000i range in 2018.

It's no surprise that the price of the new 3000c models has also risen in the six years since the last generation, but compared with the rest of the market today, they are still very sensible. The prices are as follows:

– Q Acoustics 3010c bookshelf: £329 / €399 / $399
– Q Acoustics 3020c standmounter: £399 / €499 / $499
– Q Acoustics 3030c large standmounter: £499 / €649 / $649
– Q Acoustics 3050c floorstander: £899 / €1199 / $1199
– Q Acoustics 3090c centre channel: £299 / €399 / $399

What has changed from the previous generations is that there is a third standmounter model and no new subwoofer. All speakers use the same 22m tweeter, and the three standmounts use, in increasing order, 10mm, 12mm and 14.2mm mid/bass drivers, while the floorstander uses two 14.2mm drivers. The 3090c centre channel has two 10mm drivers flanking the tweeter.

If you want to form a 5.1 surround sound package, Q Acoustics recommends the existing 3060S or QB12 subwoofers depending on the combination.

At this price, rivals include the Award-winning Wharfedale Diamonds (12.1 standmounter at £249 / $399 and 12.3 floorstander at £499 / $798) and the Elac Debut 2.0 range (£279 / $330 for the B5.2 standmounter). However, a new Elac Debut 3.0 range has also been announced at Munich 2024, with full prices still to be confirmed.

Build & design

Q Acoustics 3010c in white finish and Q Acoustics 3020c in dark wood finish speakers on display

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Central to the 3000c's updates is the use of the Continuous Curved Cone (or C3), a new driver technology that Q Acoustics developed and introduced in the more premium 5000 series last year. It combines the advantages of a flared cone with a straight-edge cone for the midrange or mid/bass drivers, while hoping to eliminate the disadvantages of either design. We have found this new driver to perform well so far, as proved in our five-star reviews of the Q Acoustics 5040 and 5050 floorstanders

The new speakers are designed to deliver "wonderfully smooth, broad dispersion" thanks to this new C3 driver and the hermetically sealed tweeter. Both these technologies are used across all models in the 3000c range, as well as improvements to the Point-to-Point bracing, which helps to quieten the cabinet and deliver better stereo imaging.

Q Acoustics 3050c speakers close up of driver arrangement

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

During the launch presentation, brand director Alex Munro said that, instead of the room having an impact on the speakers, "the speakers have an impact on the room, and the speakers continue to give whatever we want [them] to give no matter the room they are in." The claim is that the C3 driver lets you place these speakers closer to walls, so here's hoping that fuss-free quality we loved so much in previous 3000-series generations returns here.

“It's all about the bass, to quote Meghan Trainor.” That's not something we expected to hear Munro say during the launch; but he gamely follows up by saying that special care has been taken to get ample low-frequency performance from fairly compact (albeit rather deep) cabinets. The C3 driver's design aims to offer improved bass quality while integrating better with the rest of the frequencies. The floorstanding 3050c model has a Helmholtz Pressure Equaliser tube loading system – first used in the flagship Concept 500 speakers – which aims to minimise the build-up of standing waves in the cabinet, resulting in better frequency response as well as lower distortion levels.

Close up on wood finish on Q Acoustics 3050c speaker

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

In terms of visual design, the speakers carry on the seamless, minimalist look as before, with rounded corners and no fixings or screw-heads visible on the fascia. The metallic trim around the drivers is now a neater one-piece bezel, and the 3050c has new stabiliser feet that are made from a single aluminium casting, and attached to the cabinet, allowing users to access and adjust the fixings from above more easily.

The speakers come in four finishes: the two new Pin Oak and Claro Walnut veneers, and classic Satin Black or Satin White.

Sound

Q Acoustics 3020c on demo with Cambridge CXA81 and CXN V2

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The mid-sized 3020c standmount speakers and the 3050c floorstanders were the two speakers played during the demo at the High End show to give an overview of the range. In both cases, the speakers were powered by the Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amplifier with the Cambridge Audio CXN (V2) streamer as the source –both products we know very well. However, a trade-show environment, especially the exhibition rooms the speakers are in, is no substitute for a dedicated listening room, so all our first impressions of sound are just that: initial impressions based on a few minutes of playtime. More concrete judgements are reserved until we can get the new speakers into What Hi-Fi?'s own test rooms.

First up is the 3020c standmounts. With U by Felix Raymon is played through the system and we are treated to a big sound from a small cabinet. A quality we have always lauded Q Acoustics for is how solid and authoritative its speakers can sound, and the low-end bass notes in this demonstration sound solid and forthright, with a good heft of muscular power. The sound from the standmounters fills the large demo room pretty well, though we get the impression that these models will suit smaller rooms more easily. The playlist switches to Suara Dunia by Indonesian artist Sandrayati and the delicate vocals come through cleanly – there's lots of clarity, detail and airiness in the sound.

Q Acoustics 3050c on demo with Cambridge CXA81 and CXN V2

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Next, we move over to the bigger 3050c floorstanders, and immediately there is a greater sense of ease and dynamism. With the indie-folk Bug Like An Angel by Mitski now playing, the 3050c is clearly more at home performing in this large room. The larger speakers offer more space for songs to breathe in, and sound more open, too. There is a good sense of rolling rhythm to the opening guitar strums, while the voices feel natural and easy to our ears. Where the smaller 3020c cabinet felt as though it was straining to fill the room, the 3050c sounds more free and easy-going. It seems to deliver better, more subtle dynamics to our ears, and we find ourselves having fun listening to the song. The chorus of multiple vocals and layered harmonics sounds detailed and textured, and fills the room with vertical scale as well as width.

A switch to Very Heaven by Elbow shows off the 3050c's ability to deliver taut, punchy rhythms. The start and finish of notes sound snappy and attacking, and the driving basslines come across as tuneful and shapely. There is body and variation in each note, even in our initial listen. Of course, how these speakers compare with the best-in-class rivals remains to be seen, and we are also keen to find out if both models perform better in a more natural listening environment than an exhibition floor. We're also curious to know if the sonic shift we encountered in the new 5000 series – with the need for careful partnering compared with previous generations' unfussy nature – comes through in this new 3000c series too.

Early verdict

Q Acoustics 3000c all speakers in range on display

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Our first encounter with the new Q Acoustics 3000c range is promising. The speakers look good and feature trickle-down technology from step-up speaker ranges that have impressed us with their performances. And even in the few short minutes of demo time, they sounded pretty great. The 3050c floorstanders with the Cambridge Audio electronics was a very listenable combination, and that's always a promising start. It left us wanting to listen more, and we can't wait to run our playlists through the new speakers once we get them into our test rooms in a couple of months. 

If Q Acoustics can continue the trajectory it has achieved with the 5000 series and improve upon the legacy of the much-lauded 3000 series for outright value for money, then it might be on to another success story.

MORE:

Read our previous-gen Q Acoustics 3020i review

And our most recent Q Acoustics 5050 review

Our guide to the best budget hi-fi speakers on the market now

Check out all the news and highlights from High End Munich 2024

Kashfia Kabir
Hi-Fi and Audio Editor

Kashfia is the Hi-Fi and Audio Editor of What Hi-Fi? and first joined the brand over 10 years ago. During her time in the consumer tech industry, she has reviewed hundreds of products (including speakers, amplifiers and headphones), been to countless trade shows across the world and fallen in love with hi-fi kit much bigger than her. In her spare time, Kash can be found tending to an ever-growing houseplant collection and hanging out with her cat Jolene.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.